WIAW: Going back to classics

Raise your hand if you feel writing a witty intro on Wednesdays is particularly hard. Okay, maybe it isn’t usually but I’ve been feeling under the weather today so I just decided you’d agree if we got the food talk started right away. It’s What I ate Wednesday and the theme emerging this time became clear as I sorted through the pictures: we’re talking classics today. Some typically German classics, some old favourites/ personal classics. That’s what happens when you move with a lot of food still on hand …

WIAWbutton_1

It’s back! My cooking motivation returned this past weekend. Oh did I miss it. Its return was likely fuelled by my mum visiting me and helping me continue at least partly with the mumables. She brought along the most immense kabocha I’ve had this year so far [more than 8 lbs – and at that making my kitchen scale go into error state]. Not just that but some of her freshly harvested snap beans, too. Green ones are obviously a classic but how about some purple ones in the mix?

September seaside 099

Pretty, no? I’ll let you in on a secret, though: they loose their beautiful colour almost immediately when cooked so the effect vanishes quickly. While brainstorming the ‘best’ way to use the rare home-grown beans I snacked on an old favourite. That’s the marvelous part of moving with a lot of food: you’re forced to use up what you have and end up rediscovering some goodies you bought way back. Like these double-roasted salted chickpeas.

Roasted chickpeas

In an effort to savour the precious produce I set out to veganize a German classic that I’m sure those stopping by from Vegan Wednesday will know: Birnen,  Bohnen und Speck.  Only it was far from the original not just in the fact it was devoid of any animal products. I also turned what’s traditionally a sauté with a side of boiled potatoes into a casserole. Never mind that I don’t remember the last time I had the real version: this was absolutely delicious.  Hearty, salty and comforting. If you’re curious about the details: there you go.

Birnen, Bohnen und Speck

Work has me back in my old soup lady patterns. Plans of more involved workday meals will have to wait until I figure out a good meal planning schedule that works for me. Rather than panicking at the lack of produce and ideas on Sunday.  All that in mind I think I did well on Sunday with this Parsnip Pumpkin Stew I prepped ahead of time for Monday and Tuesday lunches. A stick-to-your ribs vegan dish filled with vitamins and fibre. I ate it with a slice of seedy bread that met my criteria.

Parsnip Pumpkin Soup

A sweet ending was brought into existence by my sister. Or more specifically the fact that she lives close to an IKEA store and took a trip there solely to pick up the cutest popsicle molds ever for me. Too late for popsicles? Never. Even if a whole bowl of ice cream can seem a little too much [in terms of freeze-inducing properties] a little popsicle never hurt anybody.

September seaside 095

These are the simplest ever in that all I did was freeze the contents of an Alpro Soya dark chocolate dessert pot. Trust me: you want to try this! The pudding freezes to a not-at-all hard but velvety texture. If you don’t have popsicle molds: just shake the pudding cup and pop it into the freezer for a few hours. And then come back to thank me for the genius idea 😉 . Until then: enjoy your Wednesday!

Happiness-inducing today: Starting a promising new b0ok

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What’s your favourite dish using green beans?

Do you prefer ice cream or popsicles?  What are your favourite flavours?

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Playing with recipes [Polenta Mushroom Chili Bake]

Hearty vegan cocoa chili with a meaty texture from added mushrooms layered with slices of creamy polenta. Healthy comfort food at its best.

When I first started out cooking I’d follow recipes to a T even if that required buying an ingredient I wouldn’t regularly get and probably not use again afterwards [cue pantry shelf warmers]. These days, however, I agree with the food wisdom that recipes are really just guidelines that can either be followed or played around with. For me, it tends to be the letter. Don’t have a white onion? Use a red one. Out of wheat flour? Sub spelt. Or when a dish is seriously good but – just because that’s the way your mind works like – you need to add that one ingredient for a little something-something extra.

Polenta bake_V

I’ve mentioned before that I’m all about textures and a huge fan of mushrooms. Needless to say when I feel like adding some more body or dare I call it stick-to-your ribs ‘meatiness’ to a chili they’re my go-to. Same applied here. About the zucchini? Consider it the strange but good part of this recipe. The actual reason, though, is my need for some greenery in every lunch. Yes, the mushrooms are technically the vegetable part of this recipe but since they were my ‘meat’ here 😉 I needed that extra green to complement the decidedly hearty chili.

Polenta bake

Okay, now please forget what I just said about recipes as guidelines. This does not apply when it comes to polenta. I’m not easy to please when it comes to this little grain/ corn. Polenta prepared with just water and a pinch of salt? Bo-ring. It’s all about adding more flavour and (!) creaminess. Not necessarily with the need to get out the cream or cheese though if that tickles your fancy: go for it. I chose to keep the dish vegan here by cooking my cornmeal with some non-dairy milk and adding just a bit of coconut butter for an extra rich flavour. If you decide not to listen to me and just cook your polenta in water: fine. Just don’t come complaining to me about how tasteless it is ;).

My tweak to this recipe is that you don’t need to bake the polenta. Which is an added bonus because you can prep the polenta in advance and keep it in the fridge. Then just slice it when you’re ready to assemble the dish – making it a weeknight-compatible casserole.

Polenta bake

Don’t let the seemingly long ingredient list intimidate you. A lot of them are spices and at least salt and pepper don’t actually count as ingredients. I know at least Davida will agree. This dish comes together much faster than you might think and still looks just that smidgen fancier than your average bowl of chili.

Polenta Mushroom Chili Bake [adapted from Coffee & Quinoa]

For the polenta:

  • scant 1/4 cup of polenta/ cornmeal
  • 1/2 cup each water
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened non-dairy milk [I used soy because that’s what I had on hand but any unsweetened should work or just cow’s]
  • dash of salt
  • pepper to taste
  • 1/2 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 1 tsp coconut butter

 

For the chili:

  • 1 small red onion, diced
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  •  6 oz cremini mushrooms, sliced thinly
  • 1/3 cup each kidney beans and chickpeas
  • 2 tbsps of corn
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp coriander
  • 1/4 tsp oregano
  • 1/8 tsp of smoked paprika
  • a pinch of cinnamon
  • 1 tsp dark cocoa powder
  • 1 piece of 99 % chocolate [or a chocolate with at least 85% cocoa], chopped roughly
  • 1 tsp of chia seeds
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/3 cup grated zucchini [optional]
  • optional: grated parmesan

 

Start by preparing your polenta [at least 2.5 hours in advance]:

  1. Bring water/ milk to a boil. Add salt and stir in polenta. Reduce heat and stir until the polenta has thickened.
  2. Stir in the nutritional yeast, coconut and pepper to taste.
  3. Pour into a small bowl, smooth out the top and set aside to cool.

For the chili:

  1. Saute the onion until it begins to brown. Add the garlic and saute another minute.
  2. Pour in the tomato sauce, spices, cocoa and chocolate.
  3. Let the chili simmer on low to medium heat for about 20 minutes, stirring every now and then to ensure it doesn’t burn.
  4. Remove chili from heat and stir in the chia seeds. Let the sauce thicken slightly.
  5. Meanwhile, turn the bowl of polenta upside down to pop out the molded block. Slice into four even rounds.
  6. Layer about half of the chili in your baking dish. Add the shredded/ grated zucchini.
  7. Top with the polenta slices and the remaining chili as well as the cheese if using.
  8. Bake for about 20 minutes at 180 °C/350 °F.
  9. Serve sprinkled with nutritional yeast.

Notes:

I kept this recipe vegan but also gave the dish a try adding cheese on top. It’s delicious both ways.

Chili_Polenta Bake

I’m linking up with Laura, Kierston and Healthy Vegan Fridays today.

Happiness inducing today: Chatting with my colleague while working on a rather boring task.

Stay in touch!

Twitter: @MissPolkadot21
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Do you follow recipes closely or just use them as guidelines?

What is your favourite dish featuring polenta?

 

 

Getting flaky with phyllo [Balsamic Butternut & Kale Pastry for one]

Waste not, want not – that’s actually how my current obsession with phyllo dough pastries started. In an effort to use up the leftover sheets of dough from making the Kale Surprise Pastry Pie for our family dinner.  While the pie was really delicious I wasn’t fond of preparing the same dish already again and having to eat it for several days in a row. Fingers crossed I got experimenting once more despite not feeling the creative juices flowing that day – and was positively surprised.*

*That’s not to say I expected an awful result but I just wasn’t ‘feeling’ the phyllo that particular day. Okay, that and the fact I came up with some unsatisfying lunches in previous years.

Pastry_dish

Unlike recipes puff pastry which – who would I kid here – is fantastic in all its buttery, rich glory this dish will leave you satisfied not stuffed. Phyllo dough steps in as a beautiful replacement delivering the flaky, crispy and, well, doughy element while not sitting heavy on your stomach afterwards. There’s a time and place for that, too [think Christmas dinner]. But if I plan on doing anything just slightly more active than turning over book pages while lying on the sofa within the next hours after a meal puff pastry might not the best choice.

pre-baking

Phyllo is where it’s at then. The best part of this kind of dish is its versatility: sub the butternut for another kind of squash or carrots, the kale for spinach, kidney beans for chickpeas … you name it. Or go for a completely different filling using whichever leftovers you have. Let your imagination go wild 🙂 – and then come back and tell me which amazing variations you’ve created.

dished up

Treating ourselves is an important part of self-care and while I’m all about finding ways beside food it’s nice to have this easy everyday route, too. The pastry is simple and quick enough to prepare on a weekday but feels almost like eating at a fancy bistro. It’s a way to make an ordinary day feel just that smidgen more special.

 Balsamic Butternut & Kale Pastry [serves one]

  • 1 sheet phyllo dough [see note below]
  • 1 small red onion, diced finely
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 1 cup of butternut squash, cubed
  • 2 tbsps balsamic vinegar
  • 4-5 mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/2 tsp thyme
  • dash of cayenne pepper
  • 1 cup of kale, sliced into thin strips
  • ¼ cup + 1 tbsp of soy cream [I used Alpro Soya brand]
  • ¼ cup kidney beans
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Sauté the onion in a small pot until translucent. Add the garlic and stir-fry until fragrant.
  2. Add the butternut squash and a few tablespoons of water. Cover the pot and reduce heat to medium. Let the squash simmer until tender.
  3. Stir in the balsamic vinegar, thyme and cayenne pepper. Mix in the mushrooms and cook for a few more minutes.
  4. Add the kale, letting it wilt.
  5. Stir in the 1/4 cup of soy cream, kidney beans and season with salt and pepper to taste. Readjust spices to taste, too.
  6. When the filling is assemble your phyllo dough like shown in the second picture, add the vegetable mixture and cover with the overlapping edges of the dough. Brush the top with the remaining tablespoon of non-dairy cream.
  7. Bake the pastry in the preheated oven [350 °F] for about 20 minutes.

Phyllo pastry

Note:

Keep the phyllo dough in the freezer until ready to move. I’ve found it dries out quickly when exposed to air so wait until your filling’s done to assemble it in the casserole dish.

I’m linking up with Recipe Friday and Strange but good so get even more inspiration over there.

Not a math pro at all I hope I counted out your votes on Wednesday correctly by posting the pastry recipe first. Even if you didn’t vote for it I know you will like it. Because I say you do ;).

Happiness inducing today: Leaving work tired but content after a busy day.

Tell me your favourite pastry fillings or – if you didn’t have pastries before: what would you fill them with?

Have you worked with phyllo dough before?

Random Friday question: What are your plans for the weekend?

Cheating deliciously [Spaghetti Squash Bake]

First things first: Happy World Vegan Day!

Do you ever notice trends in the way you cook or the recipes you create? When it comes to the latter or at least those I’ve posted on the blog there’s an obvious one: just about every recipe contains legumes of some kind. Be it beans in their natural – wait, are canned beans still ‘natural’? – form or more processed as silken tofu: I can’t deny I’m a legume fiend. This hasn’t always been the case but becoming vegetarian somehow naturally lead me to incorporating more of these fine little guys into my diet and I’m not complaining. It’s not even intentionally for the reason of trying to get in my protein and nutrients but an intuitive choice for taste reasons. Just goes to show how smart our bodies are making us choose what we need.

Spaghetti Squash

Okay, first trend: beans. Another one I found myself laughing at just today was my constant ‘faking it’ attitude. Think of my Mushroom Stroganoff or Chickpeas in Blueberry Mole: I’ve never had the ‘real deal’ of either of those dishes so I just winged it keeping only the name. Authenticity? No. Deliciousness? Yes!

Spaghetti

The same goes for the [unfried] ‘refried beans’ in this dish: I’ve never actually had them but came upon numerous recipes and as the spices were right up my alley decided to turn it into a new meal. The ones in this recipe are adapted from Appetite for Reduction but changing up amounts and subbing kidney beans for the unavailable [authentic] pinto beans. With spaghetti squash being a newfound second favourite – right behind kabocha which can’t be beaten – I just got working in the kitchen. The result was a probably highly inauthentic but totally satisfying meal.

Cheater ‘Refried Bean’ Spaghetti Squash Bake

  • 200 g spaghetti squash strands
  • 1 ½ tbsps white almond butter mixed with 2-3 tbsps water
  • 150 g kidney beans
  • 1 small red onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • ½ tsp coriander
  • ½ tsp cumin
  • Dash of cayenne pepper
  • ½ cup passata/tomato sauce
  • 1 ½ cups fresh spinach [45 g]
  • freshly ground nutmeg
  • nutritional yeast
  1. Sauté half of the onion with the garlic until slightly browned. Add in the spices and stir-fry until fragrant being careful not to burn them.
  2. Add the kidney beans and mash with a fork leaving some beans whole. Stir in the tomato sauce and let simmer for a few more minutes to let the flavours mingle.
  3. Pour the ‘unfried’ beans into a casserole dish.
  4. In the same pot add the remaining onion and sauté for a few minutes. Add the spinach and let wilt. Season lightly with salt and a dash of freshly ground nutmeg.
  5. Layer the spinach on top of the beans.
  6. Arrange the spaghetti squash on top. Spread the almond butter ‘sauce’ onto the squash and sprinkle generously with nutritional yeast.
  7. Bake in the preheated oven at 350°F for 20-25 minutes.

About those pictures? They’re the result of a current weather trend I’m not fond of combined with the fact that mashed beans just never look delicious [don’t prove me wrong, please!]. However, when a recipe’s worth sharing I’ll bite the bullet and go with whichever pictures I managed to snap.

Spaghetti squashAnd about the white almond butter? Sorry for using it once more – it adds a lot of creaminess. If you have a food processor: go and make your own by using blanched almonds. If you don’t … well, then I’d better convince my favourite almond butter company to team up with me for a giveaway 😉 [if only!]. Really, though, I’d suggest subbing any creamy mildly flavoured nut butter like white cashew if you feel like eating a nice plate of creamy [fake] spaghetti with [cheater] refried beans. Not a bad cheat if I dare say so myself ;). Strange? Maybe. Good? Totally.

I’m also linking up with Kierston for Recipe Friday so make sure to head over and get inspired by some of the other creations, too – maybe even some more vegan ones to celebrate today?!

Happiness inducing today: Meeting a friend at a [vegan] café and spending several hours chatting about anything and everything.

Authenticity: Do you pay attention to it when cooking or can’t help but put your own spin on recipes? For me it’s most often about ingredient non-availability and the fact that I’ve likely never had the real deal. If I ever happen upon the chance, though, I’d be more than happy to try dishes from many different cuisines prepared the authentic way.

What are some of the most used ingredients in your kitchen?